Life is like a game of chess. There is an infinite number of ways to play. It’s possible to become a master but still, have room to grow. At the core, the game is about problem-solving. To be great at chess one needs to see patterns, think ahead, use logic, be creative, fail, and learn. Every move in the game is a chance to solve a problem.
This is what life feels like to me. There are thousands of moves and problems around every corner. Some are small while others seem insurmountable. I’m not in control of the issues that come my way, but I can control my response.
Often life’s problems seem overwhelming. It’s like the beginning of a chess game. There are only 32 pieces on the board, but there are over 300 Billion ways to play them in the first four moves.
When I started playing chess, I had no idea what I was doing. I struggled with every move, even the first one. Over time I began to learn a few strategies and see patterns of my own. These helped me become a better and faster player. What used to be a problem that took a few minutes to solve, now took seconds.
Problem-solving, like chess, is a skill. It’s something I can get better at over time. Every time I tackle a new problem I am improving my ability to solve one down the road.
Don’t think for a second I got it right all the time. Sure, I’ve tackled some hairy problems in my life and even came up with some good solutions. But, I always learned more from my screw ups.
I could look back and ask myself “why didn’t that work?” Did I think through all the information or were my assumptions wrong? Finding mistakes is one of the best ways I’ve found to improve my problem-solving skills.
Problems are like mutants in a fantasy movie. They always seem to evolve and get more powerful. The patterns used against a problem yesterday may not work today. After getting good at solving one type, new issues come around the bend to test every skill we have.
The only answer is to get better.
“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” Teddy Roosevelt
In professional life, with each move up the corporate ladder, there are fewer and fewer people to solve the hard problems.
Few issues start in the CEO’s office, but a lot end up there. The reason is simple. Someone in the company couldn’t figure out a solution. This happens at every level of an organization. Tons of problems end up in a manager’s lap because the team couldn’t solve them.
In any company, there are two types of employees. They are either problem finders or problem solvers. This second group goes by a lot of other names, fixers, resourceful, go-to-person or troubleshooter. The second group only has one name, whiners.
Problems are easy to come up, solutions are hard. It’s almost impossible to find a solution when you fixate on the issue. The mind can only focus on one or the other.
In life, those that find problems and offer solutions always seem to win. These people get more responsibility, opportunities and pay.
The best way to do this is to accept the problem and then start to focus on solutions. There is an answer somewhere, and the sooner you start looking for it, the sooner you will find it. In life, and across this world, the problems we all face are only going to get worse. Now’s the time to improve our problem-solving skills. We are all going to need creative solutions to tough problems.